Prospects, which runs the Hedd degree fraud reporting service on behalf of the Office for Students, is warning that degree fraud could rise this year as students denied the usual graduation ceremony picture opportunities instead post selfies with their certificates on social media.
As graduation officers prepare to send out certificates, Prospects (now part of Jisc) is urging higher education providers to advise graduates against showing their degrees online.
Such images could give fraudsters access to everything they need to make illegal copies - logos, crests, signatories, stamps, holograms and wording. All of these are unique to each university and certificate designs change annually to help prevent forgeries.
While fake degrees, labelled as ‘novelty’, are sold for a few pounds on sites such as eBay, illegal diploma mills are a multi-million pound business.
Prospects works with universities to raise awareness of degree fraud among students with its #certificatefree campaign. Chris Rea, who manages Prospects Hedd at Jisc, said:
“We’re expecting to see a rise in pictures of degree certificates posted on social media as these will be the only tangible mark of achievement for many graduates this year. This period marks the end of years of hard work, so we understand that the urge to share certificates will be strong, but the risks of fraud are high.
“Counterfeiters will be waiting to take advantage of graduates whose desire to connect with family and friends online is higher than normal. When students post pictures of their degree certificates, everything required to make a forgery could be visible.
“COVID-19 has led to a challenging graduate jobs market. Graduates should have the best chance they can and not have to compete with people faking their qualifications.
“We don’t want to see the market flooded with fake degree certificates based on the real deal. Protect the investment made by genuine students and the reputation of a UK education by refraining from sharing degree certificate selfies.”